College Students Explore Truth by Trying to ”Stump the Pastor”
Wesley Foundation invites local college students to laugh and learn in a verbal joust with local pastors.
If we discover there are alien beings in the universe, what does that do to the Christian faith? If Jesus were a character on Star Wars, who would he be and what weapons would he use? If the disciples were to form a rock band, what would they be called and who would play which instruments? What is your favorite heresy? What is your favorite sin?
These are the kinds of questions formulated by college students in order to
“stump” the clergy of the Northwest District of the Texas Annual Conference. Notes Campus Minister Rev. Sunny Farley, “Every week, a different clergy person takes the hot seat at a Tyler coffee shop. Students from Tyler Junior College (TJC) and University of Texas at Tyler (UTT) submit questions anonymously on pieces of paper. One by one, the pastor attempts to answer these questions as the group chuckles, challenges the responses and contributes to the theological conversation.” Adds Sunny, “It's a fun way to engage faith issues. “
Campus ministers Sunny Farley and Ben West, who serve at TJC and UT Tyler, respectively, came up with the idea and students enthusiastically ran with it. More than a dozen elders, deacons and local pastors have participated in the ministry event. There was even a one-time Super Stump featuring United Methodist, Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist clergy who highlighted the unique differences in the doctrine of their denominations.
"This event creates an environment for students to ask anything they want to ask that’s related to Christianity,” notes Sunny. “We have had some good laughs but we've also had some deep conversations. Students want to talk about how the Christian faith relates to everything from dating to current events to theoretical situations. No question is off limits."
Rev. Doug Wintermute, pastor at First UMC, Jacksonville, says, “I really enjoyed participating in Stump the Pastor. What impressed me was the theological depth of some of the questions. They weren't meant as "gotcha" questions, but dealt with issues that the young adults struggled with and given much thought.” Adds Doug, “There were some fun questions as well, like "If Jesus were to be in a Star Trek movie, which character would he be," which opened wide some doors to explore and discuss some serious theological issues like the divinity and humanness of Jesus Christ, atonement, and the sacraments. Plus the coffee was great!”
Rev. Jon Thornsbury, First UMC, Canton says this experience is “not your typical day at the office so every pastor should jump at the opportunity." When he was in the guest seat, Jon shared his experience of leaning on God through the challenges he has faced. He also talked about his calling to ministry - something a handful of the students are now discerning.
Students love this type of interactive banter. Grant Rose, a TJC sophomore says, "What I like about Stump the Pastor night is being able to not only learn about God through the questions I ask, but also have a good time laughing with friends and other Christians." “It’s always fun, and we learn a lot,” adds Lacy Rushing, TJC sophomore and granddaughter of a retired UMC local pastor. Allyson Penny, UT Tyler student, says, "I like the fact that is a comfortable environment where I can be open and honest about my questions. Some questions can be intimidating to ask but at a coffee shop with college friends it makes it easier. I also like the variety of people we have leading it. Being able to get different perspectives from different church leaders is fun and helps me form my own perspectives. Also the conversations don't always stop at the coffee shop. A lot of times we continue the discussions at a later time."